SHERRARD — Tomorrow's broadcasters are learning their craft at Sherrard High School.
The school district's STV program — Sherrard TV — allows students to explore media careers. Students produce and create live and recorded programs using STV's six cameras in three sections; a news desk; an interview desk; a green screen, which is used to layer two video images; and a production room.
Production engineer Britney Burns, a senior, prepares the equipment, operates the computer programs needed for live broadcasts, and creates elements used in shows. She said her media education began in the seventh grade.
"When I toured colleges, they showed me their auditoriums with some live features," she said. "That was great!"
Burns is thankful for the program. "It's really great for being such a small school — knowing that some inner-city schools don’t have as much as we do," she said.
She plans to take courses at Black Hawk College after graduating from Sherrard, possibly continuing her media education. She's also training eighth-graders Sarah Gibson and Addison Szymborski to take over when she leaves.
Brian Hutton, social studies and media production instructor, said that since he took over the media program about a decade ago, the school has slowly updated its equipment.
"There was so much that needed to be updated," he said. "We actually contacted all three of the major (TV) stations here and asked if (they) have any old equipment. Let us know; we would come and take it off their hands."
Alan Baker, news director at local ABC affiliate WQAD, is a Viola resident whose son attends Sherrard's Matherville Intermediate School. Hutton said Baker arranged for Sherrard to receive about $20,000 worth of lighting equipment from the Moline-based TV station.
"That’s the area we’re probably the weakest, is lighting," Hutton said. "We have a green screen we use; it’s poorly lit. It just doesn’t work very well — we can kind of see the edges around it."
The news desk set also has several dim spots, he said, that will be corrected with the new lights.
Sherrard currently offers Intro to Media, Media 1 and Media 2 classes, beginning with students' sophomore years. Junior high students also can get involved with broadcasting, and some teachers use the resourcse for special class assignments.
High school English teacher Tammy Crippen uses STV for public speaking requirements in her English 4 class. The "one-of-a-kind" program creates unique opportunities for kids to find their skill sets early on, she said.
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"We have helped seven students become media workers — from being in front of the camera to videography," she said. "We also had two students work with the Olympics for Channel 8 (WQAD).
"We have many students who work creating films and a few who are making a living by being in music productions,” she said.
Crippen said Hutton and Steve Miller, instructional technology specialist, have put in a lot of work so Sherrard students can have the skills sought in today’s digital world.
Students create three to four minutes of daily live morning announcements, complete with anchors at a news desk and a green screen. They also broadcast the lunch menus and sporting events, often including "This Day in History" and trivia features.
Media class students create biweekly shows. "I always tell them they have to be web-worthy and, if they’re not, I don’t post them," Hutton said.
Programs are posted online at sherrardtigerstv.com. Students create everything, including music for segment intros and graphics, providing every element of television production and broadcasting.
This fall, STV attempted to live-stream all of Sherrard's football games, but struggled with the weather. "During ballgames, we don’t have the equipment to protect our equipment during rainstorms," Hutton said.
STV also has broadcast two or three volleyball games, girls' and boys' basketball, and the Tiger Relays track meet. The broadcasts also appear on YouTube.
"We’d like to start doing baseball and softball," Hutton said, but currently they can't get the media trailer close enough to run cables for the cameras. "We’ll take a look at how we’re going to be able to do that."
Over the summer, senior Kaden Stratton transformed a trailer previously used to transport band equipment into a mobile live broadcasting studio. The trailer-turned-studio has production equipment and several monitors and cables to connect to cameras.
Stratton said it takes about seven people to broadcast a live game. Three cameras are on the field or court — an unmanned one for an overall wide angle shot and two operated by students. Three people engineer the broadcast from inside the trailer, and one or two do the talking from the game. Engineers can switch between cameras and set up playback in real time.
The live broadcasts have a delay.
"We can do it without a delay," Stratton said. "But in case something gets messed up or something gets said that shouldn’t, we can shut it off."